April 2, 2014

B Is for Baggage Requirements

UPDATE (June 13, 2014):  Three of the major airlines have just reduced the size of carry-on luggage yet again. American has cut its carry-on size to a maximum width of a measly 14 inches (down from the former 15 inches).  Delta and United apparently have jumped on the bandwagon. 

And just when you found that perfect, chic, expensive new carry-on... Ouch!

Remember the good old days of flying? Like maybe five years ago? Back when you knew with certainty how many bags you could check and how much they needed to weigh? Those days are long gone, for sure. And even more so if you need to fly Coach or Economy.

Below is just the tip of the proverbial iceberg when it comes to baggage info as each airline has its own set of ever-changing arcane rules and fees. This is just to get you started.


Cheapo airlines, like RyanAir in Europe, are at the extreme end of the "extra charge" spectrum, and you need to pay close attention as their rules are baroque and expensive, to say the least. The airfare may look to be a bargain, but many airlines charge extra for ALL checked baggage and even cabin baggage placed in the overhead bins. The prices are pretty steep, especially if you wait until check-in to declare your baggage.


Checked Baggage - Fees per bag per one way flight
(Each passenger permitted to check in up to 2 bags)
Purchased on Ryanair.comPurchased at Airport or Call Centre from 5th January 2014
(Euro € / UK £)€/£€/£
1st/2nd Bag (15kg) (33lbs)Low Season* from***
€15 / £15
€30 / £30
1st/2nd Bag (15kg) Low Season* - Selected Flights**  from***
€20 / £20
€40 / £40
1st/2nd Bag (15kg) - High Season* from***€25 / £25€50 / £50
1st/2nd Bag (15kg) - High Season* - Selected Flights** from***€35 / £35€70 / £70
1st Bag (20kg) (44lbs) Low Season* from***€25 / £25€40 / £40
1st Bag (20kg) - Low Season* - Selected Flights**  from***€30 / £30€45 / £45
1st Bag (20kg) - High Season* from***€35 / £35€55 / £55
1st Bag (20kg) - High Season* - Selected Flights** from***€45 / £45€75 / £75

Additionally, there are some seriously strict rules for Ryanair cabin baggage:

One cabin bag per passenger weighing up to 10kg (22 lbs) with maximum dimensions of 55 x 40 x 20 cms (21.7 x 15.75 x 7.8 in) , plus 1 small bag up to 35 x 20 x 20 cms (13.8 x 7.8 x 7.8 in). Due to cabin space limitations only 90 cabin bags (55 x 40 x 20 cms) can be carried in the cabin. Any remainder will be carried free of charge in the aircraft hold. (And how do passengers know for sure that the 90-bag limit has been reached? How arbitrary is this?)

Oversized cabin baggage will be refused at the boarding gate, or where available, placed in the hold of the aircraft for a fee of £50/€50/$75(approx.) (fee subject to VAT on domestic flights at applicable government rates). If you are unsure, check at the Bag Drop desk before going through security.


Even the big guys are getting into the act. And they make the changes without any announcement. For example, two years ago, we flew LAN Airlines to South America. The baggage allowance was 2 bags each, 50 lbs per bag. Last October, we flew the same airline. But the baggage allowance was 2 bags, 50 lbs total. Big difference. If the first bag weighs 50 lbs (which is pretty standard), the second 50-lb bag will cost you a cool $100 extra. 


Before you continue, realize that although these procedures are a pain in the neck, it will save you money and protect your property.

1.  When you buy your ticket, go to the airline website and print out the baggage allowance information, including any extra baggage fees. (The baggage rates and restrictions are those in effect at the time of ticket purchase.) Carry this with you when you travel. (Yes, you have now become your own administrative assistant.)  If the requirements change between the time you bought your ticket and the time you fly, you will have proof to show the check-in agent. This could save you a lot of money.

2.  If you will be checking luggage, make sure you pay online in advance. This can save a lot of money as the fees for luggage at check-in often are double the online charges.

3.  Weigh your bags before you leave for the airport. Use one of the hand-held scales or, better yet, take the luggage to a shipping center (like UPS). Then ADD 5 lbs. to the stated weight (just in case the airport scales are incorrectly calibrated). Better to be underweight rather than over.

4.  Lock all luggage (even cabin baggage) using TSA-approved locks to secure your items. You never really know when your baggage will be gate checked. I know that the locks don't make your suitcase Fort Knox, but it might send any larcenous baggage handler on to an unlocked suitcase for easier pickings.

5.  Label each bag on the outside (a secure baggage tag will do), place a sheet of paper with your info inside the bag, also. I usually put my itinerary on the tag and inside sheet — after all, if the luggage goes missing for a couple of days, you don't really want the airline to send the bag to your home when you have three more weeks on your trip. That would be a total pain.

6.  Use your smart phone or digital travel camera and take photos of all your luggage. It helps locate the luggage if it should be misplaced.


A lot of people have wonderful structured themes for this challenge. Me, I'm going with Random Girl. Hey, my life doesn't have a theme, so why should my blog?

And make sure you check out Blogging from A to Z . There are over 2,000 participants in this years's challenge. Whatever your particular enthusiasm, you are sure to find something to pique your interest.

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  1. Some great tips, Geri...thanks for sharing!

    D.B. McNicol
    A to Z: Romance & Mystery...writing my life

  2. Ooh great tips on the taking photos of your luggage, never thought to do that, simple yet effective!

    Curling Stones for Lego People

    1. Mars -- I read that photo tip in some travel article a while back. It makes so much sense as tags can go missing. So if the airline has to track your bag, at least they have something to go on.